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Blackhawks take scoring advice, stop Maple Leafs

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- It wasn't necessarily a scoring explosion, but the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday heeded coach Joel Quenneville's call for more scoring, defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 at the United Center.

Quenneville had complained after Thursday's shootout loss to St. Louis that his team had not been scoring as much as it should or can do, having tallied just 20 goals in its first seven games.

And while they now still have just 23 goals in the first eight games, Quenneville saw progress: it was the first time since the season opener that the Blackhawks ended a game not on either end of just a one-goal difference.

"I thought we got what we were looking for tonight as far as chances (and) consistency across the lines," Quenneville said. "And although we didn't produce in the third period, we did still score and we did what we wanted to do tonight much more effectively.

"(Chicago had) a four-line rotation, we had the speed, consistency, predictability and sustained that momentum of how we like to play."

Bryan Bickell, Michael Kostka and Brandon Pirri each scored as the Blackhawks improved to 5-1-2 on the season and also won their eighth straight game against the Maple Leafs (Chicago's last loss to Toronto was more than a decade ago -- Feb. 12, 2003). Goalie Corey Crawford stopped 19 of Toronto's 20 shots.

"We didn't give them too much and I think we kept pressing, too," Crawford said. "We had a lot of great chances and a lot of speed and bodies to the net, so that was one of our best (games this season)."

Toronto's lone goal came from Nazem Kadri as the Maple Leafs lost their second straight game and fell to 6-3-0. Losing goalie Jonathan Berrier stopped 37 of Chicago's 40 shots.

"One thing we didn't do is we didn't sustain the forechecks, specifically in the second period," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. "For whatever reason, we weren't able to shut that down and they scored (three) goals and that was the hockey game."

Although it took more than 25 minutes to do so, the Blackhawks scored first on Bickell's first goal of the season at 5:32 of the second period.

"It was a nice relief to get the first one," Bickell said. "It sparked the team, the guys on the bench were happy, but overall to have the game we did, to shut down their offense and played our game was huge."

That advantage didn't last long, as Kadri scored his third goal of the season 91 seconds later on the power play to tie the game at 1.

Chicago went back ahead at 10:28 on Kostka's first career NHL goal. Kostka broke into the NHL last season, playing 35 games for the Maple Leafs, before signing with the Blackhawks as a free agent this season.

But the Blackhawks weren't done yet. Pirri, who scored his first career goal Thursday in a loss to St. Louis, tallied his second goal as a pro, this time on a power play, on a tip-in of a perfect pass through the crease from Brandon Saad.

The key for Chicago during the first two periods was puck control and shooting. The Blackhawks out-shot Toronto 29-9 during the first 40 minutes, including a 20-6 margin in the second period.

A potential fourth goal by the Blackhawks early in the third period was nullified when Bickell was penalized for goaltender interference.

The game marked the return of former Blackhawks fan favorite Dave Bolland, who signed with the Maple Leafs as a free agent during the offseason. Bolland played 332 games with the Blackhawks from 2006-2013, scoring 70 goals and 98 assists, before joining Toronto.

"They're a good team," Bolland said of his former teammates. "When you play that kind of team, they play hard. They keep the puck, chip it in and keep making the plays.

"Now when you're playing against them, it's a little different than playing with them. You sort of see how things go on, but I think as a result, we got better in this room."

During a stop in the action early in the first period, Bolland was introduced and received a classy and lengthy standing ovation from the Blackhawks faithful.

"It was really nice to see it," Bickell said. "To get the recognition, I know this was a special game for him. This was the first team he had been on and to get two (Stanley) Cups. It was a special night for him and his family."

Added Crawford on Bolland: "That was pretty cool. He spent a lot of time here, two Stanley Cups, I think he only deserved that."

NOTES: Attendance was 21,801. ... Chicago is now 5-0-1 against Eastern Conference opponents, 5-0-2 when outshooting their opponent and 5-0-2 when scoring the first goal of the game. ... The Blackhawks still have not lost any man-games to injury thus far this season. The Maple Leafs, on the other hand, came into the game having lost 22 man-games due to injuries. ... Thursday's 3-2 shootout loss to St. Louis was RW Marian Hossa's 250th career game in a Blackhawks uniform. ... Although he didn't pick up any points Saturday, Blackhawks D Brent Seabrook is one point away from 250 in his career. Backup G Nikoali Khabibulin, who has played in just one of the Blackhawks' first seven games coming into Saturday, is four games away from 800 in his NHL career.
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